SEC football media days Alabama notes: Quarterback competition far from decided

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerJuly 23, 2011 

HOOVER, Ala. -- It took 13 questions before inevitability became reality.

Nick Saban went nearly a half-hour Friday morning before the quarterback issue came up at SEC media days.

A.J. McCarron? Phillip Sims? Where does it stand?

“It doesn’t stand anywhere,” Saban said matter-of-factly. “It stands where it stands. We have two guys that are still competing for the quarterback position. We’re going to continue to manage those guys through fall camp.”

That’s exactly where the matter stood after April’s A-Day Game. Neither McCarron nor Sims did much to separate from the other, so no starter was named. That could extend into September.

“It will be interesting to see who plays better in the game because we feel like both guys have done a really good job and both guys are talented enough to be very, very successful quarterbacks for our team,” Saban said.

Alabama players couldn’t pick a leader in the clubhouse as voluntary workouts and 7-on-7 drills continue. Running back Trent Richardson has been close with McCarron even before college, but that’s not affecting his view of the competition.

“I love both of them boys,” Richardson said smiling. “It really doesn’t matter. AJ, he’s like my brother. We used to spend the night at each other’s when we were in high school. I mean, I really don’t care. Whoever wins it will win it.”

Safety Mark Barron had to defend against both in spring practice. He’s equally indecisive on who’s leading who.

“Both of those guys, to be honest, I couldn’t tell you who is going to be the starting quarterback,” Barron said. “I honestly can’t tell you. Both of them have strong arms. Both of them are athletes. Both of them are smart.”

Saban said over the summer he wasn’t opposed to using both quarterbacks if the stalemate continues.

Tornado brings perspective

Richardson is an elite running back, but he’s also a father.

That made the stories from the deadly April 27 tornado outbreak even more jarring for the junior.

“Most of the people that were missing were kids because parents were holding onto their kids and parents were holding onto them and winds were going 200 miles per hour,” he said. “I have two little girls myself, so I can only imagine how they feel. It’s a tragic moment for them. That’s something I would never put on somebody.”

The story was similar for Tide long snapper Carson Tinker who lost his girlfriend Ashley Harrison that afternoon.

“When you think about it, if there’s somebody you love snatched from you, that’s hard,” Richardson said.

Richardson spent the chaotic day after the storm helping with what he could around town.

“It was crazy out there,” he said.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower hopes football can help in some way.

“Tuscaloosa thrives on football, so to have something to look forward to, the season, to heal even a little bit,” he said.

“For some people, that’s all they have. We’re working hard to give them some of that -- like the Saints did with Katrina.”

In-state scheduling

Alabama last played an in-state non-conference opponent in 1925. The 50-7 win over Birmingham Southern was the last such meeting.

Though Saban said he doesn’t have much to do with the scheduling process, he’s open to the idea of playing a local opponent.

“I personally do not have an issue with playing in-state schools,” he said. “In fact, we sort of instituted that at LSU. We played Tulane, but they hadn’t played the other schools. We started to do that so it promoted all the programs in-state. So I certainly would support the effort to do that in our state in Alabama.”

The only programs the Tide could play are those in the FBS and FCS including UAB, Troy, Jacksonville State, South Alabama, Alabama State, Alabama A&M, and Samford.

Auburn plays Samford this season and has a contract with Jacksonville State to play in 2013.

Saban wants more discussion

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive made news Wednesday when rolling out a plan for reforming collegiate athletics. Saban said Friday he’d like more discussion since a few of Slive’s talking points had not been discussed with coaches.

“I don’t fully understand the purpose of some of these things,” Saban said.

The informal proposal included raising the minimum grade-point average for incoming freshman to a 2.5 from 2.0 on the 4-point scale.

Saban told a story of an unnamed former player whose course would have changed if that standard was a rule.

“Nobody in his family had ever gone to college, from a little town in Alabama. He ended up coming to Alabama, played for us. … Didn’t have the grade-point average stuff that we’re talking about guys need to have. He graduated. He’s working at one of those science places up in Huntsville.”

Hart’s knee improving

The Alabama backfield suffered a blow earlier this month when freshman Dee Hart went down with a torn ACL.

That’s an injury linebacker Hightower knows well since his 2009 season ended for the same reason. He caught up with Hart in the training room this week where the former top recruit is rehabbing from his July 7 surgery.

“He’s doing great right now,” Hightower said.

“He’s already walking and he’s not using his crutches. His knee bends. He looks like he’s healing a lot faster than I did and I healed pretty quick. He’s looking great.”

Barron close

The torn pectoral Barron suffered in the November loss is close to fully healed.

The senior safety said he’s 90 percent back to full strength after a season of rehabbing.

He still participated and returned a 96-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in April’s A-Day Game while wearing a black non-contact jersey.

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